by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton
Is there such a thing as a "Jewish colour"?
After concluding the reading of the Megillah on Purim, we read a short hymn called the Shoshanat Yaakov - "The rose of Jacob". This song which briefly describes the joy of the Jewish people and their gratitude to G-d upon their salvation was composed soon after the Purim miracle. The hymn begins with somewhat of a strange line -"The rose of Jacob (the Jewish people) was cheerful and joyous when they saw together the blue of Mordechai's [robe]." One can imagine the joy and excitement felt by the Jews of the time after their lives were miraculously saved from certain death. One can also understand their joy at having their very own leader - Mordechai - being appointed as viceroy over the entire Persian Empire. But what has the blue got to do with it?
In this week's Torah portion we read about the special clothes worn by the High Priest in the Temple. One of the most important items of the High Priest's apparel was the Choshen -the breastplate. The Choshen was a beautiful ornament which had twelve different stones - each with the name of a separate tribe engraved on it - arranged in four rows and three columns. The stone which had the name of the tribe of Yissachar etched in it was the blue sapphire stone.
The Biblical commentaries explain the significance of this stone being used for the tribe of Yissachar: Traditionally it was the tribe of Yissachar that produced the greatest Torah scholars and leaders. Another thing that we know about the tribe of Yissachar is that they were renowned for their humility.
White is a colour that depicts purity but it also portrays simplicity. The great men of Yissachar were far from simple, so white would not do. Red or yellow would be too loud and flashy to represent what this tribe was about. Blue however is not simple but not ostentatious either. When we think blue - we think of the heavens above. Blue conveys the idea that we should aspire for the heavens, for greatness; but at the same time blue is not a flashy colour, it reminds us that we should always remember that there is a Greater Being above us. It tells us to reach for the heavens but to never allow achieved greatness to get to our heads.
It is therefore not surprising that the tablets which represent the Torah and its eternal principles were also hewn out of sapphire. It is also by no coincidence that G-d's throne of glory is described by the prophets as the "appearance of sapphire". The great yet humble men of Yissachar personified this in the fullest sense and it was thus fitting that the name of their tribe was engraved in a sapphire stone.
After Mordechai the Jewish leader was appointed viceroy of Persia, the Jews at the time would have had mixed feelings: On the one hand they would have been excited that "one of their own" had achieved such prominence. At the same time they would have been nervous - would their lovable leader remain the same down-to-earth man who understood and related to them; or would his new position get to his head, perhaps they, the simple Jews would no longer fit in with his new circle of aristocratic friends?
When the people all saw "the blue of Mordechai they were cheerful and joyous". Mordechai was clothed in many royal garments but hadn't forgotten the blue. He had his head in very high places but hadn't turned bright red , he had his feet firmly planted on the ground, remaining humble and connected with his people.
So whilst there is probably no single colour that can be called "the Jewish colour", the colour blue represents what G-d expects from a Jew. Achieve greatness, have your sights set on the heavens but don't flash it around. Don't let your achievements get to your head. Always make sure your feet are firmly embedded in the earth.